I just got back in this evening from Nikko. Going wasn't bad, despite the smattering of rain on the way. It took quite a while, about four hours by train to Nikko station and then another 45 min or so by bus to the campsite, with a pause between the two to load up on groceries. This was the first time to go camping without a car to get me where I needed to go. It's very difficult to do 'car camping' when you don't have a vehicle. Other people drove, so they brought a couple crates of beer, but the four of us who came together had to get all the food and haul it there.
The camp was beautiful. I went camping there two years ago and had a great time, and this year was with many of the same people, though I think we had fewer than the previous time. We set up camp, played a game of ultimate frisbee, and set up a great campfire where we cooked a good deal of food. Yesterday was spent hiking partway around the lake, to a nice little beach, where we rested and had lunch. A couple of guys went for a dip, but they didn't last long in the mountain lake. It's up around 1200m elevation, we could still see snow in crevices on the mountains. I dipped my feet in, but nothing else. Sayaka made friends with a 9-year old in our group and they made sand sculptures of boobs, which I'm sure greatly entertained the families who went trekking past us on the way out.
After the hike, we wandered up the highway to the onsen. This one was definitely natural -- it had that eggy smell, and the water was milky and had a nice later of sulfurous sediment encrusting the spout. It was also searingly hot. I could only sit down in it just above my belly because it drove my sunburn mad, so when I got out and stood in front of the mirror everything below that sharp line was a bright pink. But it was relaxing, and the stroll along the waterfall just outside the onsen was beautiful.
The second night wasn't anywhere near as cold as the first night. Sayaka spent that night wearing all the layers she had and still shivering and complaining about the cold. She got up 5 or 6 times for I don't know what, though once was to buy a hot tea from the vending machine at the camp office -- I know because I knocked it over in our tent when I woke up. We made sure to rent a heavy blanket from the camp office for the second night, but it was still chilly the second night, though not like the first.
Our ride home was a huge pain. One reason we left so early to go to Nikko was because of the horrendous traffic jam that hits that area during Golden Week. We were lucky enough not to have any traffic going, but heading back was a nightmare. The bus didn't come for us once, so we had to wait for the next one, which headed down the mountainside in a hair-raising series of hairpin turns and the occasional monkey crossing the street. It then proceeded to get stuck in a long, snaking traffic jam all the way to the station, during which time it started raining. We got to the station only to find out all the express trains had been sold out, so we had to take a local train. It wasn't so bad as we were lucky enough to get a seat, whereas some of our friends who were in a hurry to get home had crammed themselves into an earlier train with (very little) standing room only.
We were waiting for the bus from about 1:15pm, and I didn't roll in to Hiratsuka until about 7:45pm. That is a long trip. I'm exhausted and my insides are punishing me for the enormous quantity of alcohol consumed with an almost entirely carnivorous diet for three days. Oh, not to mention, I brought my camera, but forgot to put the memory card in, so all the photos I got were taken with Sayaka's camera and will be a little tardy in getting posted.